Councillor hunts down Portsmouth yobs after cuts mean no cop available

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HEAVY cuts to neighbourhood policing across the county left a councillor forced to hunt down yobs.

It comes as 180 posts have been cut from community policing, new data shows.

Neighbourhood officers – PCs and PCSOs – have been cut by 182 from 516 to 334 between 2012-17 in Hampshire.

Figures obtained by the BBC Shared Data Unit and shared with The News show 539 officers have been axed from the force overall between 2012-17.

Councillor Lynne Stagg, (pictured inset) a member of the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, said such were the cuts to neighbourhood policing, she had recently taken a photo of youths causing problems in Baffins as no-one was available when she called 101.

She said: ‘I had to do a lot of the work neighbourhood police used to do. We’ve had major problems here in Baffins.

‘I went out in my car up and down the road an eventually I found them. I didn’t confront them but I took a photo.’

She went back to shops in the area, where a shop owner identified one youth’s school and Cllr Stagg then went to the headteacher who identified more.

Cllr Stagg said eight youngsters were later handed behaviour orders.

She said: ‘People don’t see the police and they don’t feel safe as a result, some of it is perception rather than reality.’

As previously reported, PCSO numbers have gone up to about 384 from 339 – with the force saying they expected this to reduce as some PCSOs will retire and others move to become PCs.

Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter said: ‘Year-on-year we’ve seen a reduction in police officer numbers not only across neighbourhood policing but across all areas of policing, which is making policing across the UK unsustainable.

‘Policing needs investment more than ever before and the government need to understand that they’re breaking the police service by treating it with the contempt that they do.’

Hampshire police are facing cutting £24.75m by 2021/22, on top of £82m savings since 2011/12. The force is seeking to axe 162 posts to save £7m.

Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane told a meeting last Friday in Winchester that specialist units were being reduced in a bid to save cash for neighbourhood policing.

In a statement, Mr Lane said: ‘My highest priority is to keep the people that I serve safer. I am committed to neighbourhood policing – and officers, PCSOs and staff all play a fundamental part in this.’

Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: ‘We have always been clear on our commitment to neighbourhood policing, which includes the areas of safeguarding and offender management.

‘Since we moved to our current policing model in 2012, our investment in neighbourhood policing has remained static with 990 people committed to making our communities safer.

He said there were no plans to cut neighbourhood teams in 2018/19.

Sussex police axed a combined 262 full-time equivalent of PCSOs and PCs.